Real-time collaborative edit is coming to CAD & PLM

Real-time collaborative edit is coming to CAD & PLM


Collaboration is an interesting term. It used a lot in the context of different applications. But it has different forms. Emails, text messages, tweets, workflow processes. All these technologies are allowing us to “collaborate” and we’ve been using them for many years. However, nothing can replace real time collaboration and communication. There is nothing better than talking to people face-to-face. You can discuss, bring information in front of you and made a decision. The things are getting less efficient when we are not co-located. Voice and video can be more efficient to sending message. However, the most critical part to make remote communication efficient is the ability to bring contextual information in the discussion.

The Web 2.0 phenomenon has caused an explosion of interest in browser-based document editing tools. In particular, a product called Writely saw explosive user growth and was bought by Google in March 2006 (what become known as Google Docs). In 2009, Google started beta testing Google Wave, a real-time collaboration environment which Google hoped would eventually displace email and instant messaging. You might want to check my earlier blog about PLM and Google Wave here.

More users are demanding real time collaboration these days. It became part of new digital habits. Google was pioneering Real Time Collaboration in Google Docs. Recently, Microsoft introduced real time collaboration functionality in Office 2016. Check this article for more information.

Now Apple brings real-time collaboration in iWorks. If you watched Apple announcement yesterday, you probably heard about it already. The following article can give you an idea of what Apple introduced – Apple takes on Google and Microsoft with iWorks real time collaboration.


Real-time collaboration is a trend and it is part of new digital habits for many people. People are working on a content in a real time. It becomes important and software vendors are playing attention. What Apple did with iWorks and Microsoft did with Office is part of the trend to bring existing desktop application and turn them into “connected” by adding real-time collaboration features.

Real-time collaboration in engineering software

I’ve been sharing my  thoughts about real-time collaboration. Check out my earlier articles- Cloud CAD, Real-time collaboration and data management overhead; How to close collaboration gaps in CAD and PLM; Is there a need for real-time collaboration between engineers.

Web application with multi-user access and comments

CAD and PLM companies advertised real-time collaboration already 10 years ago. Here are two examples from Dassault Systems and from Siemens PLM. These solutions are basically predecessors of web 2.0 applications providing web application to access the same information. The following DE article gives you some additional perspective and examples of collaboration using web application with collaboratively added comments.

3D viewing, CAD and Real-time collaboration

3D Viewer is another opportunity to introduce real time collaboration in engineering applications. There are several examples of CAD viewer technologies allowing real-time collaboration and simultaneous access to the same content.

Autodesk A360 and Fusion360 is a good example of real time collaboration. The following video brilliantly crafted by Rob Cohee of Autodesk can give you an idea of what Autodesk thinks about collaboration in Fusion360.


Solidsmack article – 5 ways Fusion360 improves team collaboration can give you a more systematic view on features and functions to support collaboration in Fusion. Don’t miss my favorite – Live review.

Onshape is another good example of introducing collaboration into 3D CAD space. Onshape supports collaboration in a way of simultaneous editing between engineers working on the same CAD model. The following video can give you an idea how it can work.


PDM and PLM applications

Data management and process applications are using web technology for the last decade. Many of these application are allowing to users to access the same data at the same time. Chat and comments functionality became popular with the introduction of “social” features for the last few years. A combination of viewer and online comments can provide a lot of value. Such features are available almost for all PLM applications today. A good example of Facebook-like comments combined with viewer is Aras visual collaboration.


Another example of real-time collaboration is openBoM (disclaimer – I’m co-founder). openBoM gives you cloud-based BOM management tool that implementing a Google real-time collaboration paradigm for bill of material editing. You can share BOM between multiple users and collaboratively edit it. openBoM keeps history of operations, changes and allows to save BOM revisions. You can read more about it here. The following video can give you an idea how it works.


Enterprise Software and Real time collaboration

Enterprise software vendors are following the same trend as well. Recent acquisition of Quip by is a good example of the same trend. Read more here – The demand for live connected collaboration.

Now let me get back to Apple announcement…

Before yesterday, iWorks was a traditional office application brilliantly crafted by Apple to edit documents. We can argue if iWorks is better than Microsoft Office or Google Docs, but this is not my point. An addition of real-time collaboration is an indication of new trends in Office application towards new ways people are accepting in their work – editing of document by multiple people at the same time. It becomes a norm and Apple followed the trend.

What is my conclusion? Today, people are so used to the speed, usability and ease of tools used in their personal lives that when faced with those at work, they struggle with old paradigms and archaic, outdated and unnecessarily complex applications. Real-time collaboration is becoming mainstream in all office apps – Google, Microsoft Office and (now) iWorks. And it will impact our digital habits. Real time collaboration open new opportunity for communication and work between people in manufacturing companies. Interactive technologies are replacing old-fashion workflows to mobile and SaaS apps that provide a more usable user experience.  Could you imagine existing CAD and PLM application shift to real-time collaboration? What if Solidworks (or any other CAD) will be upgraded to support real-time collaboration like iWorks did it? This is a good question to ask software architects and PLM strategists. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased


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